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Of tyre bursts and Air-India flights

Travails of a student Nidhi Malhotra who was onboard Sunderban on Apr 1.

india Updated: Apr 10, 2006 14:47 IST

After waiting for more than two hours at Indira Gandhi International Airport on April 1, I boarded my flight to Frankfurt - AI137 commonly called as 'Sunderban'. Captain Kaushik welcomed us on board and apologised for the inconvenience due to the delay.

A few minutes later, the Captain announced, "Ladies and gentleman, just to inform you, one of our tires has burst. Nothing to worry as 15 others are still working fine. The flight will reach Frankfurt 6857 miles away, in 8 hours and 30 minutes."

Another few minutes and we were informed that we were heading towards Mumbai. The plane kept hovering over Arabian Sea for quite some time, before landing at Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport at around 13:30 hours.

We were sitting still and then we heard, "Ladies and Gentleman, nothing to worry, we are safe. We are just waiting for jack and then we can safely offload you. Just don't move and please do not open your seat belts and lockers."

Every one was zapped but still murmuring. More than an hour passed before we heard from the captain, "Ladies and Gentleman, you can see jack coming from the left hand side and now you can safely be offloaded."

It was then that my sweet next seat blonde asked with a confused look, "What's happening? Who's Jack?"... I could not always believe what was said about blondes but finally I experienced!

Anyways, we entered the airport at around 15.30 hours and then it was time for some more chaos.

We were asked to submit our passports to airport officials. A few fellow Indians raised their voice to convince foreigners not to listen to them but call higher authorities.

 

 Air-India's Frankfurt-LA flight had an emergency landing after its tyre burst

After all the commotion, passports were taken away and we were told we would be transferred to some hotel as the flight could not move until the next day.

For that too, people were initially divided in different groups and then all collected back at the door. Probably, divide and rule did not work well!

Then began a long wait of about two hours for the coaches, "separate for the business and economy class".

Now, the business coach was half filled and there were less economy coaches, so we kept hearing "have patience guys...after all they are trying their best!"

At around 1900 hours, all the passengers (I think 280) reached Park Plaza Royal Palms, a business luxury hotel at Goregaon, with a total capacity of 193 rooms.

There was another long queue as we got our keys by submitting our boarding passes. Also, since hotel authorities received a short notice, so they couldn't provide so many rooms (especially clean rooms) which were anyways much lesser in number! Still, I got a room on sharing basis, but unfortunately many people could not!

At 01:30 hours on April 2, we all checked out and boarded another flight, this time 'Kanjaur'. I said to myself, thank God, I am leaving for Frankfurt, hoping to reach there! I hope that Fool's Day has passed.

But, I kept asking myself that why do such situations arise? And even if they arise can't the whole nuisance be avoided? Can't we afford to have better quality planes after shelling out more money on government airlines? Can't we have better time and crisis management services?

I had almost missed a very important interview and so many people missed other important tasks.

Last but not the least, Don't we expect better hospitality, at least for our foreign travellers? Some were cursing being here and a few even went to the extent of saying they will not return before their next birth.

I felt miserable and shameful; it took us more than 12 hours just to reach a hotel at Mumbai. How do I say that I am proud to be an Indian, when my country people cannot trust each other.

Maharaja, it's time that you pull up your socks and let there be no more mockery of India and let me not write again to say "Welcome to ancient Air-India".

I sincerely hope to get a better service than a superficial apology, the next time I board Air-India.

(Nidhi Malhotra is a regular HindustanTimes.com surfer)

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